My travel planning series continues with the Europe Travel Bucket List. Depending on how the dreaded Brexit goes, I want to get in at least one European city break next year. If Brexit goes badly, this plan might go awry but lets plan for the best outcome. If I end up having to apply for a visa to go to Paris, I’m going to be p*ssed off and shall be sending the bill to Theresa May and her cronies.
Politics aside, there’s so much of Europe that I haven’t even begun to explore. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few places in France, Spain, and to Rome in Italy but there’s so much more to see! We have the blessing of living in London and having 5 airports less than an hour away so travelling to Europe is pretty quick, easy and affordable.
So where is on my 2019 Europe Travel Bucket List?
Croatia is up first. This is another one that’s been all over every Facebook and Instagram over the last few years, and rightly so. With Split & Dubrovnik offering rich history, rustic scenery and boasting some great hotels, Croatia has various options for a city break. I often search for images of Plitvice Lakes National Park and imagine how in awe I would be strolling through its lush greenery and steep waterfalls. Croatia also has the island break option down with places like Mljet and Solta making me reach for my swimming costume and oversize sunhat.
Next up is Romania. I have the pleasure of working with some really lovely Romanian people. I’ll admit that before I got to know them, Romania had never been in my travel plans. Seeing pictures of where they grew up, and where they spend their family holidays when they go home always has me straight on Google. One of the gents I work with recently had an operation back home and went out to the monasteries in the mountains to recuperate. Whilst they may be a haven for Christians who need to recover from the pressures of life, you don’t have to be religious to be able to enjoy these retreats. They offer rest, relaxation and reflection – all surrounded by scenery straight out of the Sound of Music.
Like England, Germany has a rich history. The unmentionable aside, Germany ticks all my boxes: food, museums, architecture. If you’re looking for a weekend city break, Germany has so many options. Most cities are less than 2 hours’ flight from London and average about £100 – the price and time you’d spend getting a train to another city in the UK from London!
Berlin is the obvious choice, with the spectrum of architecture from the iconic TV Tower to the 800 year old St Nicholas Church transitioning from ultra historic to ultra modern.
Frankfurt hits my list, purely for my love of sausages. The Sachsenhausen area has all us foodies covered, with the concentration camp offering a more sobering choice for the historians among us.
Fussen isn’t quite a city but it has to make the list! Close to the Austrian border, the scenery is Sound of Music meets Frozen. A true princess a heart, I love a good castle and the areas surrounding Fussen offers a multitude of regal residences, including the Neuschwanstein Castle – supposedly the model for the design of the Disney Castle!
Being the closest to England, France makes the most sense for us Brits to travel to. You can fly, get a train, get a boat – some have even swum there! I visited Paris a couple of years ago with my girls, to celebrate us turning 30. I absolutely fell in love with the architecture and the food. More bread and cheese than you can shake a selfie stick at? Yes please!
The Loire Valley is on my list, and not just because we’re heading there next year with M’s family! 800 square kilometres of greenery, rivers, castles and wine lands – I was sold before they mentioned the Chateau we’ll be staying in!
I’d love to travel to Normandy and visit Mont St-Michel. I vaguely remember going there as a kid but the memories are hazy and mostly of us moaning about how much walking we had to do. I want to explore the markets and play the race against the tide for the road again.
Nice is also high on the list. We all love a good beach from time to time and the Promenade des Anglais offers 7km of coastline to stroll, run or cycle through, as if one were in the Victorian aristocracy. Nice is also home to a variety of Jazz clubs offering food and music to make your soul happy. From cobbled market streets to the Three Cornices, Nice can satisfy the most eager or relaxed of travellers.
Of course, the list doesn’t end there!
Unless we have a lottery windfall, there’s no chance we’ll even get to try all of the above but in the event we do hit the big numbers, there’s so much more I want to see! I want to eat brownies and cycle round Amsterdam, experience the truest form of tacky in Benidorm, consume pasta in Florence until I burst and see just how much cold I can handle in Iceland.
Where have you travelled in Europe? What recommendations do you have?
I think my travel bucket list grows every day. The last few years have bought me some amazing travels, which I’ll treasure for a long time. My girlfriend whisked me away to Rome for my birthday in 2016. In 2017, we managed to get to Barcelona for a weekend for her birthday, as well as taking a short break in the mountains in Turkey.
In April 2018, after a lot of planning and saving, we pulled an amazing trip out of the bag; two weeks in Cape Town! We did everything that one should do in Cape Town and so much more. M grew up there so I was lucky to have a super experienced tour guide. Whilst in SA, we took a weekend trip to Knysna where I got to spend a day at an elephant sanctuary.
So what does 2019 have in store?
Well, depending on how successful we are at saving, it could involve a lot. Over the next few years, we have big plans. Like serious grown up plans. Kids, buy a house, the works. So 2019 might be the last chance we get to be young and reckless.
The ultimate travel aim splits into three: Asia, Europe and the UK.
A few years ago, my friend was doing a short stint of travelling in Thailand. I flew over and met her at the end of her trip and we got in 10 days. We got in some serious R&R at a gorgeous hotel on the island of Koh Samui, and a few days of hectic tourist fun in Bangkok.
I absolutely fell in love with Thailand. I totally get the hype. The people are warm; their hospitality and welcome is outstanding. The food is phenomenal. One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten was 80p noodles from a beach bar. The scenery is indescribable. It’s the epitome of an exotic paradise. Plus, they have elephants. Do you sense a theme here?
I just know that M will love Asia. The vibe is so chill. The heat, the sand, the scenery, the food. It all lends itself to absorbing culture and relaxation. It’s so far removed from our lives. I want to climb a mountain with her, drink fresh coconut water on the beach with her, drink cocktails and party in the sand till dawn.
Asia in general is probably the most affordable area of the world where you can travel about, see everything and do everything without breaking the bank. Flights from the UK can get pricey but if you’re willing to have a layover and a bit of a wait, you can get return flights around £500 per person. Internal flights between islands and countries can range between £30 and £90. You can easily spend that on one dinner in London!
Accommodation can be sought from £1 per night to £1000 per night. Whatever your budget, there’s an option. I’m the first to admit, I’m a princess at heart. I won’t be sharing a bunk bed in a room full of 10 strangers, no matter how cheap it is. For the sake of keeping costs low, I will take the Thai equivalent of a Premiere Inn, which is likely to come in around £15 to £50 a night, depending on where you are.
Food in Asia is crazy cheap. Like the most I spent on a meal in Koh Samui was £20 for about 5 courses including cocktails. You can get a decent lunch on the street almost anywhere for less than £1, as long as you can accept that the vendor won’t have London’s standards and health and safety certificates.
Where in Asia is on my 2019 Travel Bucket List?
I’d love to see more of Thailand. Phuket looks stunning. There are several more ethical elephant sanctuaries that I’d like to visit. I could plan a whole two week trip around them! I’d like to do some island hopping. Koh Tao, Koh Panang, Ko Phi Phi, Koh Lanta. A night or two in each place would suffice but I’m fairly sure I could waste months just strolling around the beaches, sipping coconut water and reading in the shade.
Bali is next up, for so many reasons. I’ve been wanting to go to Bali since I was about 21 and the last 9 years, it’s really exploded as a must-see tourist destination. From cheeky monkeys to Indian Jones style temples, Bali may be tiny but it has so much to offer. I do worry though that it’s become over developed and inauthentic, as all the holiday companies scramble to cater to the average European tourist. I think I’d only spend 3 to 4 days in Bali.
Vietnam is another place that seems to be gaining popularity amongst travellers. If you’ve visited London in recent times, you’ll see that there’s a Vietnamese Pho restaurant on almost every street. Ha Long Bay looks like a scene straight of a shipwreck movie and a place where you can forget that real life exists. Ho Chi Minh City seems to be a tropical version of London and I’m always fascinated how other cities compare to my home’s Capital.
Last up in Asia for my 2019 Travel Bucket List is the Phillipines. From what I’ve read, and the travels of my friends, I think that the Phillipines ticks all my requirements. Food, scenery, things to do and people. Filipino hospitality is supposedly a big rival to the Thai. Their food is odd but I’m game for trying some lechon. Maybe not one for the vegans though. Like much of Asia, their islands offer scenery that England could never dream of competing with. It’s home to some of the best underwater scenery too, with a multitude of options for snorkelling and scuba diving. Count me in.
Have you been travelling through Asia? Do you have any recommendations for me?
Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I went to Cape Town and the Post Office Travel Money Card was our best companion.
We were going for an all-out holiday to visit family and friends. We also planned to do some sightseeing and have a weekend away.
All of this involves spending a lot of money. Cape Town is inexpensive to navigate or holiday in, to the average Brit. However, with what we had planned, and the two weeks we were going to spend, we’d need a lot of cash. In South African Rand, two weeks’ of money was tens of thousands. There was no way I wanted to take all that with us, in cash!
The chance of it getting lost or stolen in our luggage was too high.
Plus, we’re both clumsy and forgetful. I’d be so worried about losing our passports on the journey there, I’d leave all the cash in a bar.
Add to that the crime rates and frequency of muggings in Cape Town and we ruled out cash entirely. We agreed to get some changed up in the UK, maybe £100 or so for tips, water and roadside niknaks. We could get out more as we needed it. Where did that leave us? South Africa may be, technically, a third world country, but Cape Town is as modern as London. Digital money it was!
There was no way I was going to use my Lloyds Current Account card. Every transaction abroad comes with an extortionate fee. On top of that, no matter how many times I’ve told my bank I’m going to a certain country and may use my card, it’s been blocked every time. Cue me in Paris, trying to ask Disney Store staff (and half the tourists on the Champs Elysee) where the nearest ATM is. ATM is not a word that the rest of the world understands apparently.
Maddie has an HSBC account which is supposedly worldwide but hers isn’t transaction fee free. We also wanted to take two options, in case one got lost or stolen. I didn’t want to end up in Cape Town with no cash and no means of getting any!
A colleague at work mentioned a pre-paid visa or mastercard. I had a look online but most of the major ones would incur currency exchange fees and big fees for cash withdrawals.
It’s a pre-paid Mastercard that had everything we needed and is specifically for travel! We ordered online and waited around 3 days for it to arrive.
You can add 13 different currencies to the card. Naturally, this time we topped up in Rand but you can add Euro, dollars, Dirham, even Stirling!
It’s accepted at over 36 million locations worldwide. Basically, anywhere that accepts a credit card will accept it, which made it perfect for Cape Town. There’s also no transaction fees which is fantastic.
There is an app for the card. Here, you can see your wallet, the daily exchange rate, top up, see what you’ve spent. It’s just like a normal banking app. Topping up is easy and takes a few minutes the first time while you figure it out, maybe 1 minute after that! The minimum top-up is £50 which isn’t great if you’re on a tight budget but we had saved and planned to spend.
Again though, we were worried about what would happen if the card was stolen, as it’s also contactless, so we kept the top-ups around £50 to £100.
The only real downside is that you don’t get the best conversion rates.
For example, one day whilst we were in Cape Town, the online average was 17 rand to the pound, but the card only offered us 16. When you’re in a country where the pound is infinitely stronger, it’s not really an issue. If, however, you’re in Europe, you might feel a little cheated sometimes.
The app has a secure login so even if your phone is stolen, they thieves can’t access the app. It doesn’t store your card details so you’re well protected. Also, you can top up with any card. So I could load what I’d saved, she could too etc. Or if you’re a parent with a child travelling, you can load onto it as needed!
Although your transactions can take 48 hours to appear on your statement on the app, the balance updates in live time. So wherever you are (if you have phone / internet signal to check the app), you can keep a constant track on what you’re spending.
You can use the card in an ATM as normal – just make sure you choose one that doesn’t charge you, and you select local currency rather than native currency. If you’re in Spain and choose Stirling instead of Euro, you’ll most likely get charged by the Spanish bank for conversion. You’ll be charged from your balance for withdrawing cash anyway so it’s best to take out a lump sum, rather than several different withdrawals. The charges average out about £2 which is much more reasonable than the £5 I was charged in Turkey by Lloyds TSB.
If you lose it or your card is stolen, you can cancel it straightaway, 24 hours a day.
You don’t have to worry about all your money being spent. I’m not sure what happens if you’ve lost your card abroad; what happens to the balance, or how you get the money back or get a new card. Their site isn’t forthcoming with that information which is a little annoying!
We only ran into one issue on our holiday with the card, and it was our fault. We hired a car through Hertz. M can’t drive so I had to hire the car. However, Maddie had ordered the Post Office Travel Money Card, so her name was printed on it. I was terribly jet lagged after a horrific delay (thanks Emirates, won’t be using you again). I’m not sure if it was Hertz’ policy or South African law (unlikely) but the card and the hirer’s name need to match. Luckily, our leasing agent was an absolute legend and resolved it for us.
From restaurants to attractions, supermarkets to bars, we used the card all over. Maybe a little too easily after a lot of rum in LouLou’s. We rarely relied on cash and I’m so glad we came across the card. It made our whole trip a lot easier and a lot less to deal with for old anxious me! Just to confirm, this isn’t sponsored, sadly. I genuinely found this and genuinely thought it was a great idea so wanted to share my travel secrets with you all!
One Sunday lunchtime during our holiday in South Africa, we jumped in our little car and headed from Cape Town to Kleinmond
We had family there to visit and it’s just under 2 hours out of Cape Town. Cape Town to Kleinmond such a beautiful drive. We drove the main roads out of the city and down the N1. Once you get out of the city, it’s lush greenery and mountains. Then a short drive from the main road, you arrive at this beautiful little beach town.
Kleinmond is a small town in the Overborg region of the Western Cape
According to Tripadvisor, there’s plenty to do in Kleinmond. I wish we’d had more time to check out the forest adventures or the penguin colony in Betty’s Bay! We’d come to see my father-in-law and wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
As it was, we only had an afternoon so we settled for a walk on the beach coastal walkway. It has some rugged terrain but it’s got a lovely wooden path built into it. The rock formations, the way the waves fall, it’s amazing. I grew up at the seaside with some choppy sea but I’ve never seen such beautiful waves as I did that day.
We strolled from the house down through the walkway and up to the cove. I could have hiked for hours through miles of rugged terrain but we were limited on time, and hungry!
Here there’s a fair few restaurants and shops, mostly aimed at day trippers.
Cape Town has such a variety of great restaurants but Kleinmond has a lot to offer for such a small town!
Some are super fancy, but most have a really chilled beach vibe, which goes well with the surfing clientele that come throughout the years to ride the sick waves.
My father in law has his favourite restaurant there and is a regular face. Kabel Joe’s is right on the peak with a great view. It has outdoor seating and a top deck for those warm days. Despite them preparing to close, they kindly set us up a table and agreed to feed us weary travellers. As with many restaurants on the sea, their focus is on sea food. Their food was completely on point. Huge portions, well priced. Perfectly seasoned, beautifully presented. We couldn’t have asked for more! I had the coconut mussel pot with some fresh hot bread and it was delicious.
If we come back to South Africa in the next few years, I fully intend to come back in Winter. This is whale season! Kleinmond is a prominent location on the whale route and those beautiful beasts can be spotted lazing and playing around near the coasts.
We left to head back to Cape Town much later than I’d planned.
I don’t love driving in the dark. The roads are big and crazy and dark. We decided it would be lighter and safer to go back along the coastal routes, rather than through the mountains. I’ll rarely admit I was wrong but I was so glad we left late. As we hit the coastal roads in the last leg of our journey, we turned a corner and nature presented us with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Cape Town to Kleinmond might be a tough day out with kids but it’s a great road trip for friends or a couple. The drive is easy, the scenery is stunning, and the people are so chilled.
We arrived safely back in our apartment in Century City, where the next night we were treated to another stunner of a sunset. I can’t get over how naturally stunning the sunsets are for a city!
Hastings is such a beautiful area, rich with history and an every changing culture. 12 years ago I left for the bright lights of London but my family remained. I have the luxury of knowing Hastings both as a local and as a tourist. I’ll be doing a short series – Hastings in a Day, Hastings in a Weekend and Hastings in a Week. I’ll focus on things to do, things to see, places to stay and things to eat, for all weather options.
This week, it’s Hastings in a Day. Being less than 2 hours from London by train or on the road, Hastings is an easy option for a day out. Whether you’re looking for family fun or a romantic day at the seaside for a couple, there’s something for everyone!
Things to Do
When the British weather does us proud, I would definitely recommend wasting some time playing mini golf at Hastings Adventure Golf. If it’s good enough for the World Mini Gold Championships to be held at, the course is good enough for me! It has water features, sound and light effects, shade and is a great price too.
The beach is meters away, with arcades across the road and refreshments all round. There’s a big car park just next to it or it’s a short walk from the town centre so it’s easily accessible from all areas.
If the weather isn’t on your side, there’s plenty of alternatives too. One of my favourites, especially with children in tow, is the Blue Reef Aquarium. This is again reasonably priced, with a big car park right outside, and right on the beach. The displays have everything from Nemo look a likes to reptiles. There’s even a shark tunnel where one can stand in awe with the tank above them full of life!
Tip – buy tickets online ahead of your visit and get them cheaper!
Things to see
If you’re around the mini golf and the aquarium, you’ll be in the area locally known as the “old town”. This area is rich with history and has a great mix of the old and new. George Street (which runs parallel to the main road) is a beautiful small cobbled street that every visitor needs to see!
From art galleries to restaurants, tattoo shops to book shops, there’s something for everyone in George Street! It’s always full of life and is one of the most picturesque streets in the world to me.
Things to Eat
All this walking and sight-seeing is bound to build up an appetite! At almost every turn you will find a fish & chip shop or an ice cream stand. It’s almost mandatory to have a 99 Ice Cream when you’re at the seaside and I fully encourage it. They’re good for the soul.
If you’re after something more substantial, then the Codfather or the Blue Dolphin should be where you go for fish and chips. Beware of the seagulls though if you’re going to takeaway and eat on the beach!
If you’re after something more sophisticated, the Two Bulls Steakhouse is a must. I went with my mum and had the satay beef skewers last year. We couldn’t find a single thing to fault.
If you’re going in a group, the cheapest way to travel is probably by car. With the A21 extension being recently completed, the journey time from London is down to just under 90 minutes. That’s time for only 2 podcasts!
If you’re going it alone or a couple, it might be cheaper for you to get the train. The trainline often do great deals on tickets on certain times of day. Make sure you take a good book or film for the journey as it can take over 2 hours. However, the trains are always clean and air conditioned and there’s a lot of stunning scenery to watch along the way!
Our trip to Cape Town in April was overwhelming. We did so much that I can’t do it justice in one post! I’ll be breaking it down each week, with a highlight of each area. This week, it’s all about one of my favourite things….food!
As we were staying in self-catering apartments, we had to figure food every day. My partner lived in Cape Town for 18 years so she had a long list of places that she wanted to eat. Luckily, she also knew what a supermarket looked like, what products were good, and not to eat polony!
We had discussed and saved a long time and sorted our holiday budget so we could afford to eat happily whilst we were there. I was surprised to find that the supermarkets were about on par in price with UK supermarkets. The average household income in the UK is around £27,000 and in South Africa it is around £10,000. So for food to be the same price, it’s the equivalent of a bag of microwave rice costing us between £3 and £5 on average.
Comparatively, the cost of eating out in Cape Town is a lot less than in London. Which is great for us because the cost of stocking up the cupboards with all ingredients etc for cooking was heading towards more than eating out! Plus when you go out for dinner, no one has to do the washing up.
Thanks to our historical knowledge, research and recommendations from M’s friends, we had a great time eating our way round the city. My top 5 meals are here!
One of the first places we ate was Spur. Imagine TGI Friday’s with a native American theme… and a lot cheaper.
In the style of the true gluttons we are, we ordered a lot of different things. Spur’s nachos are infamous, so we had to have a big portion of those! We also had wings, calamari, fries and veg sides (very butter spinach and butternut squash). We didn’t manage to finish it, along with the cokes and beers we had, it was just too much. Including the tip it came to less than £25 and it kept us going all the rest of the day.
The next place we hit up was Salushi, in Claremont. We’d gone on a tour of the suburbs, seeing where M lived and grew up and this was on her must-eat list. I have to say, I was definitely not disappointed. As we went during the day in the week, it was relatively quiet so we had our pick of outside tables.
The waitresses were welcoming and funny. The food was beautifully presented and delicious. We ordered enough that we couldn’t finish it, despite having climbed around Kirstenbosch National Gardens for hours just before. Still our bill came to around £25 which was more than just a bargain! I’d definitely recommend the Bon Bons to eat, with an iced tea to cool you off in the heat!
After days of running ragged, M and I decided we needed some down time and a date night. We wanted to go out in the evening, for dinner and drinks, but the city centre isn’t really safe enough after dark for us to be doing that. Luckily, the area we stayed in, is super safe so we felt okay to wander about. So we stumbled upon Knife at the Marriot, and I’m so glad we did! Everything was wonderful.
The restaurant itself was beautiful, the waiters were fantastic and the food was heavenly. The cocktails were also a big hit! They have a partner restaurant, Fork, in the town centre which is more of a tapas vibe but this place was great for our date night. Including 2 courses, cocktails and a large tip, the bill came to around £80 for the two of us, which was the perfect end to the evening!
When we were staying in the town centre, we decided on a day of museums and wandering, as a lot of the things were nearby each other. Obviously to survive a day of traipsing about, we need to fuel up! We pottered about and came across this beautiful little cage, Mozart on Church, nestled between antiques markets and buskers on Church Street. The coffee was delicious, the eggs were poached to perfection.
The buskers nearby weren’t going to win the X Factor any time soon but they were a nice background. A lot of Cape Town is super modern or commercialised but this place had a real laid back, beachy vibe. No rush for your order, no suited waiters, with plenty of hipster arty types wandering around.
Now, a Gatsby isn’t a specific restaurant or café, it’s Cape Town’s odd signature dish. For a city with the most wonderful mix of ethnicity, in Africa, based on the sea, I’d expected it to be something fresh and salad like with lots of spices. I think a LOT of Brits and Americans would love a Gatsby. It’s basically a massive long bread roll, filled with Malay spiced steak, chips, salad, cheese and sauce.
It’s essentially a heart attack in a bun and makes no sense with the country’s heritage but it’s GLORIOUS. One feeds at least 3 to 4 people and they come in about a fiver each. You’ll find them in “greasy spoon” type cafes or independent restaurants. The posh version any of the chain restaurants aren’t worth it at all! The food was glorious but I think, for me, the topping was the company. I was with M’s friends, the girls who love her most in the world, who had welcomed me into their homes and hearts with big open arms.
And the rest
There was SO much else to share in terms of food. We ate out every day, for convenience and cost mostly, but also because we’re on holiday and wanted to live without restrictions and have fun!
Here’s the run down of where else we went, all of which I would thoroughly recommend!
Rockpool – Sea Point. Popped in for brunch. Great food with great views!
The Galley – Fish Hoek. We went in with the intention of Fish & Chips in their takeaway but got drawn into a fancy fish kebab in their restaurant, whilst watching kids play in the waves of this secluded beach.
LouLous – Green Point. This was a night out out for a friend’s birthday. Tapas and booze. The food was amazing and I wish we’d been there for an actual dinner and not to consume copious amounts of rum and gin. Also great party venue on a Saturday night if you’re looking for a little party but not a huge club!
Cape Town Fish Market – Century City. More Sushi! We just couldn’t help ourselves. I thought it was a bit bright on the lights but the sushi is made to order and totally on point. Great options for cheap wine that pairs amazingly, too!
NowNow – Various locations. Imagine Subway with the quality of Waitrose and the health levels of Whole Foods. A touch pricier than some on-the-go places but still cheap, quick and delicious!
Braii – the best way to enjoy food in Cape Town is with the locals. Any South African will tell you the best way to cook is to Braii (BBQ)! It’s more complex than a Great British BBQ. You have to wait a long time. Plenty of beers and snacks are needed but the end result is SO worth it. South Africans really know how to season and fire their food!
Here’s to Strong Women. May we be them, may we know them, may we raise them!
In honour of International Women’s Day, I didn’t just want to share this piece with you, I needed to. Women are the future! I have so many women that I look up to, especially for inspirational quotes. I could have written another ten thousand words on this, ten times over. In the interest of keeping it sweet (sorry, it’s not short by any means), here is a list of the 10 women who are currently inspiring me as a woman. I’ve included an inspirational quote from each person, what the quote means to me, and why each woman deserves to be on my list.
Helen – My Mum!
She always taught me that whatever I am doing, do my own best at it. Don’t compare myself to anyone else, but put your all into the things you care about!
My mum is my rock. She’s my best friend, confidante, boost when I’m down and ego curber when I get carried away. There’s nothing in the world I can’t talk to her about, and she’s probably the only person on the planet on my wavelength. She gets just as upset about the injustices of the world as I do, as well as getting just as excited about a new gin the way I do. We have had to work at our relationship to get to where we are, and will continue to do so. I am so blessed to have such a smart, empowering, funny, kind, hard working, non-judgemental, all round wonderful woman to lead me through life! My mumma loves life quotes as much as I do!
M – My Girlfriend
I am the best at what I do, and I’m proud of it!
Most days, I can’t even find the words to describe her. She is funny, kind, smart, absolutely ridiculously beautiful, hard working, motivational, supportive… I could list 100 more adjectives and it wouldn’t be enough. She runs a million pound business without batting an eyelid. She’s an amazing chef. She’ll give the clothes off her back to see someone else be warm. She’ll run around for 12 hours at work and still come home and hold me whilst I cry. She’s bold, brave and determined. She won’t spout inspirational quotes at me but she’s made me see a future beyond next week. I live every day totally in awe of her.
Sometimes life cuts you down, learn from your mistakes, from the wrongs in the world; absorb that negative energy into you and use it to fuel your next success!
Oprah Winfrey isn’t just a woman, she’s a phenomenon. She rose from birth in a poverty stricken family to being worth over $2billion dollars and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her media prowess is second to none. Her entrepreneurial spirit, grit and determination are awe-inspiring. But the item that has put Oprah into this post is one of the many things she does to progress women in the world – her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The college came as an idea from her and Nelson Mandela and she ran all the way with it. The school is for girls who come for poor backgrounds but whose minds are rich and ambitions are high. I bet they are taught many strong women quotes too. The first graduating class members have moved onto universities all over the world! Also check out her Super Soul Conversations podcast, it’s just bloody brilliant.
Life is tough. Not everything will turn out gold. But those moments that do, embrace them!
She may look like a sweet southern belle, but don’t let her demeanour lead you to think she is anything less than a beast! With 27 industry awards (and a further 48 nominations) under her belt, she’s taken the world of movies by storm since a young age. She juggles work, husband, religion, and friends, alongside motherhood and its intricacies, growing little humans into fantastic young people. She also founded and runs a clothing and lifestyle brand, Draper James, all of which is affordable and authentic to her personality. She also has her company, Type A Films, which bought us Gone Girl and Wild. Her movies are full of empowering quotes that I doubt she even realised the potential impact of. Reese realised that there are not enough diverse or positive roles for women in the industry, so she founded a production company and decided to make the films and programmes herself. She brought us Big Little Lies, and is offering us the adaptation of Eleanor Oliphant. Her work with the #TimesUp campaign, alongside Save The Children, the Children Defence Fund, and being an Avon ambassador, adds the sparkle to her already shining star!
Talking about change isn’t enough. We must speak up, we must practice what we preach, and we must stand in solidarity against the things that hold us back.
Lena is 2018’s rising star and couldn’t be more deserving. She’s best known for her role in Master of None, winning an Emmy for her writing in the show, the first black woman to do so. She’s also created the new series The Chi which is looking to be the talking point of TV for summer 2018. My reasoning for adding Lena to my list is her sheer determination to succeed and overcome all the adversity stacked against her. Being gay, black and female, there are so many chances for the industry she works in to typecast her to low level roles. She’s smashing through those glass ceilings, speaking her mind and following her dreams. There’s hope for all the young, queer, black girls out there looking for an inspirational woman and she’s their shining light!
As I grow older, I learn from my life and it frees me from my past, letting me move to my future
Alicia Keys has been my musical idol since I got her first album when I was 14. It’s an album that has got me through many tough times. I’ve sung teary through “Caged Bird” more times than I care to remember. All her albums resonate with me in some way. None of her music sounds like anyone else, and she doesn’t care. She makes the music she does because it makes her happy; she is a strong woman and sings the truth of what is her life at the time. Her amazing music, her conquering motherhood with elegance and grace, refusal to wear makeup any longer aside, it’s her Alicia’s philanthropy that speaks to me in this list. She is co-founder and ambassador of the Keep a Child Alive foundation. She’s been passionate about educating people in Africa about Aids & HIV since a young age when she lost a close family friend to the disease. Alicia also actively participates in direct action in protests relating to educational budget cuts, war, racism, indigenous rights and women’s rights alongside her annual Keep a Child Alive ball.
Being a woman is an honour. The ability to produce life, complete the challenges we do, mother, nature, lead, with elegance and gentleness is incomparable.
Clearly I don’t need to explain why mother Maya (as Oprah calls her) is on the list but I feel like she deserves every great word written about her. She is generally defined as poet, singer, writer, and civil rights activist but she is so much more than that. She is a mother to a son, and adoptive mother to many more. She’s been a writer, director and producer. She was a professor at a college. She was a journalist in Ghana. She’s worked with Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jnr on the civil rights movements. She has spoken out for black people too afraid to use their own voice. She has fought back on behalf of all women who have ever been victims of violent or sexual assault. She overcame poverty to grow to wealth. Her writing is basically a catalogue of inspirational sayings. She’s received over 50 honorate doctorate degrees, alongside the Presidential Medal of Freedom. All of this, with the calm, style, grace and power of the Goddess that she is, mother Maya will live on to be an inspiration for centuries!
Being nice to other people really makes a change. Making a person laugh can change the course of their day, their life, and the world.
Everyone knows and loves Ellen, fact. She has evolved with the times. She started with a stand up career in the 80s. Now she’s hosting her own international chat show now. She came out on a TV show in a time where it was not fashionable, cool, or “normal” to be out and actually proud. Another unstoppable entrepreneur, Ellen has gone to grow her several brands, building an empire beyond her published writing, comprising a a production company and a record company. She spearheads AfterEllen.com, a website for the LGBT+ community focusing on queer issues in the society, highlighting all negative and positive portrayals of queer people in the media. She’s won 30 Emmys and 20 People’s choice awards. She is one of the most decorated hosts and producers in the world. She may not be the epitome of women empowerment but for me, Ellen has made it to this list because of the same reason she has made it big – her mouth. Ellen is not afraid to say what she thinks. She may soften the blow of the blunt words behind humour. However, she addresses every topic that needs addressing, loud, proud and without apology.
I am a LOT. I am apologetically loud, opinionated and strong minded. Not everyone can cope with that and that’s their problem, not mine.
For me, the crux of the women’s rights movements, is to empower women. I think that has to start with Self. I spend as much time as every other woman beating myself up. I’m too loud, too tired, too lazy. Too brash, too fat, my skin is bad. I’m not a director, I don’t save the world. But actually, do you know what? I am fucking AWESOME. I am SMART. I am KIND. I am FUNNY. I am HONEST. I work HARD. I LOVE intensely. I deserve to be HAPPY. I’m not perfect. I never will be. I do spend my days, trying to be good, make the world a better place, make people smile. So it’s taken me a long time (30 years so far) to figure it out. To love myself is the path to loving other people, and love life. It will be a hard path, and I have a lot to work on but, right now, I LOVE ME!
Betty Irene – My Nana
Treat people the way you want to be treated! Respect everyone if you want to be respected. No one person is superior to another!
I was lucky enough as a child to have my nan living with us growing up. She and I had a special bond over musical films and cake. I remember even thinking doing the washing up was fun with her! She survived a divorce in a time it was till taboo, raised 2 kids, 4 grandkids, played football in the garden with my brother in her sixties, whilst waiting for the cake she and I had baked to cool. I try every day to make her proud, and I know if she were still alive, she would just be glad that I’m happy.
Please, please, please, today, do something to recognise your own self worth.
Please comment with any women who inspire you, and why!
We all get tagged in a post on Facebook by a friend. Sometimes once a week, sometimes once an hour. A few of the posts we’re tagged in give a minor chuckle. Most are meh. In December, my friend Emily tagged me in a post. She’s one of my closest friends and also one of the funniest people I know so I know it’s going to be a good one. The post is along the lines of “Overnight Disney Movie Marathon”. I already know I’m in.
I agree quicker than I would to a free ticket to a Spice Girls concert and forget entirely about it.
Until last weekend when it rolled around. My 30 year old self is as excited as my 7 year old self would be.
12 hours of Disney movies, back to back, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Soho. I don’t even know what films are on. Nor do I care. I love them all.
I spent all week obsessing about what to wear, what to pack, what snacks to take, whether or not I should take wine (not allowed by the cinema!).
Clothes were easy. I decided on stretchy jeans, layers of tops and fluffy socks. A blanket and my flight cushion were must-haves. I’m 30 now. Comfort over cool every damn day.
I recently bought a Google Pixel XL 2 and the battery is phenomenal but 12 hours is a long time and we were off to the women’s march in the morning after the marathon so I needed to be prepared. In goes the portable charger and cables.
In goes the clean pants for the morning, toothbrush, face cream, face wipes, deodorant, slippers. Water. Anything within reach, in it goes.
Snacks were a dilemma. Nothing too smelly or noisy so as not to annoy others. Nothing that needed to be warm or needed utensils. Slimming world friendly. Fruit? Veg and humus? Sandwich? I accidentally stopped in M&S on the way and got deli snacks, crackers, sweet treats and pork pies. Never go shopping when you’re hungry.
I hop on the train and head to Soho. Arriving in Soho on a Saturday night in comfy jeans, with the intention to sit and watch Disney films in fluffy socks is an odd concept that my grown-up self is conflicted with. A usual trip to Soho would involve Chinese food, gin, tequila, a tuktuk and making BFFs with drag queens.
I used to think I was super cool. I realised I’m not. I’m absolutely okay with being the kind of woman who goes to Disney marathons on a Saturday night.
We get to the cinema, check in and get settled in our seats. My anxieties have been high this week with work and the weather but at the forefront of my mind, I’ve been worrying about tonight, for Emily. She is 6 full feet of goddess and her legs seem to take up about 4 foot of that height. How is she going to settle in to this space for 12 hours?
Luckily, the Prince Charles isn’t like your average high street cinema. It’s spacious and clean, the seats are comfy and well maintained. They charge £20 for 12 hours of Disney heaven, not £12 for every average film on the market.
I get into my comfies, get set up with snacks and drinks around me, blanket and pillow at the ready and settle myself in for a night of nostalgia.The list pops up and we’re on the way! The atmosphere is beautiful. Every person has either a blanket, slippers, Disney pyjamas or all of the above. Everyone cheers at the beginning of each film and claps at the end.
By 1am, I’m waining.
I didn’t have great sleep Thursday or Friday, my planned power nap was disturbed. Between around 130am and 7am, I sleep on and off, despite the bright screen and the very loud soundtracks. I’m not alone. I’m in a mass napping cult by now.
I sleep in a warm cosy Disney haze, an upgraded version of the awful sleep you get on planes. I managed to catch the first and last ten minutes of most films, with snatches in between.
The credits roll on the last film; everyone cheers and we all bundle up our nests into bags and schlep off into day light. The middle of China town at 840 on a Sunday morning is an eerie place. Bright, brash, with none of the usual beautiful sights, sounds and smells that usually embrace you as you pass through the tunnels of lanterns.
I stumble home, looking no better than someone that’s spent the weekend in a rave in a warehouse, to my warm bed, where I spend the next 5 hours sleeping with “Got no Strings” from Pinocchio pinging around my brain.
We managed to get in a few trips on the holiday and there’s two contenders for best trip.
One is the Elephants World because, well, Elephants! The other was the Chantara Junk Boat trip. The trip costs around £50 which is pricey for Thailand but absolutely worth every penny.
We were picked up from our hotel after breakfast and taken down to the Big Buddha Pier, where we met Marco, the trip leader. From there we boarded the boat with the other groups, totalling about 25 people, meaning the boat wasn’t overcrowded at any point. We were shown to a a sun area with cushions to lounge on and provided with towels and ice cold bottles of water.
Sails up and out into the blue ocean towards Koh Phangan
Marco and his team on the Junk Boat kept us entertained, with Marco going through the safety stuff followed by the outline of the day with each group, in at least 5 different languages. Marco is mild mannered, full of mystery, funny and kind. His team kept the boat going smoothly and making sure we all had all the ice cold drinks we could need.
Halfway through the trip we stopped for lunch; cooked fresh on board. There was a mix of different options provided and lots of fresh fruit for pudding. From there we sailed for another half hour before getting the chance to stop and go snorkelling in the coral reef. Marco was very firm about us not touching the reef in any way so as not to damage it and buoyancy aids were available for those who needed them.
We then sailed the Junk Boat on to Koh Phangan where we stopped and had the chance to explore the beach for a couple of hours. There were the usual options of water sports and massages or, as we did, to follow Marco to the Flip Flop Pharmacy bar on the beach for a signature Chantara cocktail. I’m not sure what was in it but it was strong, cold and delicious! We explored the beach for a bit and found a really cute set of rockpools and a swing to play on!
From there we got back on the boat and started the journey back to Samui; this time we went round the other side of the island.
The scenery is absolutely stunning.
Under developed and natural; I kept saying it was like watching a nature documentary live.
We then stopped the Junk Boat close to Samui to watch the sunset. It was a clear evening and absolutely beautiful. I watched a pretty epic sunset in Ibiza but this topped that for sure.
We found this trip through TripAdvisor; there were so many 5* reviews that we booked months before we even arrived and I couldn’t be more glad that we did. Marco and his team deserve every compliment. If you’re ever in Koh Samui, I couldn’t recommend any more that you do this trip!
In February, I took an amazing trip. My friend, Daniella, decided to do a 3 week organised back packing trip. I decided to join her at the end for us two to have 10 days together in the sunshine. Koh Samui – here I come!
As someone who’s terrified of flying, it was an insane decision to make, but one of the best decisions of my life!
Trying to decide where to stay and what to try and do seemed almost impossible. We ended up deciding to spend 6 nights on the island of Koh Samui, followed by 3 nights in Bangkok. I’m a bit of a princess so we stayed in lovely hotels, rather than backpacking hostels. I took a suitcase. I do not have time for a backpack.
After flying 7 hours to from Heathrow to Doha, a further 8 hours from Doha to Bangkok and another hour from Bangkok to Koh Samui, I landed in possibly the most beautiful airport in the world.
There I was to meet Daniella.
Naturally, I was instantly overwhelmed with the heat and humidity so turned to the cafe for a lovely refreshing coconut water. Which cost about 50p. Already, I was impressed.
It’s less of a hotel and more a collection of bungalows. I’d say there was only around 50 rooms so at no point did it feel overcrowded. Everything was clean, modern and well kept. We had breakfast included, which offered a great selection every morning, including lots of delicious fresh fruits. The staff were friendly and warm, the pool was cool and the beach was beautiful. It’s well connected to the main strip by a short walk down hill on the road or along the beach, wandering past all the other hotels and restaurants on the water’s edge.
A few people had warned me that Samui was overly touristy but I didn’t find this to be the case. Yes, there are tourist shops and bars but there’s still a lot of natural, local things to do and see and taste. The scenery is mostly untouched and speaks for itself. It’s absolutely stunning and a far cry from my little corner of South West London, in every way!
Whilst we were in Samui, we did two day trips. The first was the Chantara Junk Boat day trip to Koh Panghan and the second was a Safari day trip, visiting several attractions the wonderful island has to offer. We also headed out to the Jungle Club for dinner which was amazing; I only wish we’d gone there during the day!